I’ve been in London again for a few days. Actually it was my birthday and I decided to celebrate in the big city with my friends. My mum came too and baked me a Baumtorte – a traditional German cake which literally means ‘tree-cake’. Rather than being baked in the oven, it is made by whipping up a vanilla flavoured batter which is then cooked in layers under the grill – like an enormous stash of very thin pancakes placed on top of the other. When it’s sliced, the layers look like the rings of a tree.
The recipe comes from my grandmother, Margot, a champion, if eccentric, baker. Each layer represents a memory or a thought, so it’s very appropriate for a birthday cake. The cake features rather prominantly in Mr R – Sadie bakes it whenever she needs to remember something or someone. So, I saved a piece for Jocasta (my editor) who had never tried it before. I felt almost guilty at giving her rather stingy slice. Almost.
Today, Mr S and I finished off the last slice and I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholy. The last of this year’s birthday Baumtorte. There’ll be another layer on next year’s. It’s like the thaw. I love snow. It transforms the most stoic grown-up into a sledging six-year-old. We’re all transported back to a childhood in Narnia and a land of hot chocolate and stories before bedtime. But, with the thaw, the magic disappears. As the snow drips from the trees and turns into grey slush oil stained by car-tyres, we all grow up again in an instant. I don’t mind it once the snow has gone, but the act of watching it fade from perfect whiteness into sludge, I can’t bear. I’m tempted to hide in London until it’s gone.
And, yes, I switch off the Narnia movie, the moment that the snow begins to melt.